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Sep 30, 2007 02:09 PM

traditional english fruit cake

I just found my grandmother's old handwritten recipe and want to surprise my father with the cake for christmas. Problem: her instructions are vague and don't include some steps that I have seen in other recipes which seem like they would improve the outcome.
What is YOUR favorite fruit cake recipe?
How long is ideal for aging? (her recipe says at least two weeks--how long is too long?)
Do you bathe it in liquor while it's aging?
Do you put liquor in the batter before it bakes?
Thanks so much.

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  1. I use a recipe for a traditional steamed fruitcake. I wrap a tea towel around the batter which is in a round glass mixing bowl then cover & steam to cook. Then I wrap cheesecloth around the cake, place it in a container with a cover and pour liquor of choice over it. I store mine in the fridge, for at least 4 weeks. Every few days or when I remember, I pour more liquor over the cloth-covered cake. I've used sherry, I've used dark rum. Both were very good. I have a recipe for a light, non-traditional fruitcake that calls for liquor in the batter, but then there's no aging of the cake afterwards.

    9 Replies
    1. re: morebubbles

      In recent years my father has been buying a fruit cake from some british import place. He pours a liquor over it and sets it on fire just as he serves it. If I wanted to do this with my homemade recipe, would I still age it in liquor or would that be overkill?

      1. re: abud

        Yes, I would. And no, it would not be overkill, it's for a dramatic festive effecte. I haven't done it myself (set it on fire as I serve it), probably because it scares me!
        I gather that the steamed fruitcake is very traditional. In a restaurant that's no longer around (here in Montreal) it used to be served heated and topped with a custard sauce.
        What kind of fat does your grandmother's recipe call for? Mine calls for butter bit I'm sure I've seen (& made) one that calls for suet.

        1. re: morebubbles

          I think you are confusing Christmas pudding, which is steamed and can be set alight when brought to the table, and Christmas fruitcake which is baked.

          1. re: Athena

            I don't think I'm confused, they're just different preparations of fruit cake. I was married to a Brit for 11 years and the in laws loved my 'steamed pudding'. I served it as is, boozy and delicious.
            Hi abud, could you clarify which type of cake you'd like to make, a baked one or a steamed one? It's great that you're considering making a fruitcake for your dad (I'd love to see your grandmother's notes!) Whatever kind you make, it'll be a nice surprise for your dad. In my opinion, nothing's better than homemade!

            1. re: morebubbles

              My grandmother's calls for baking it (some time in a "slow" oven and some time in a "moderate" oven !?--I looked that up and figured it out).
              But no booze in the recipe and she says nothing about "feeding" it as it ages.

              1. re: abud

                My recipe includes brandy in the recipe, and after the cakes are baked you pour more brandy over them and wrap them tightly in cloths soaked with brandy, then seal up in foil and plastic bags for at least four months. You don't touch them during that time. (I put mine upstairs in the linen closet, out of the way and the heat of the kitchen.) Since the stores don't really start carrying candied fruit until pretty close to Christmas, I have last year's batch that I made right before Christmas for this year, and I'll make new ones this year for next year.

                1. re: abud

                  If you have the time, it would be helpful if you could post your grandmother's recipe.

                2. re: morebubbles

                  Well, I'm British and there there seems to be a gap in my fruitcake knowledge! I googled steamed fruitcake and found this Chowhound link:
                  Is this similar to what you make?

                  1. re: Athena

                    thanks Athena, it looks good, & it's for a big batch! The recipe I use is from an old Gourmet cookbook (recipe isn't avail on Epi it seems). The book lists light fruitcake, dark fruitcake and ' Old Fashioned Steamed Fruitcake'.
                    Here's the recipe:
                    1 c butter, 1 1/4 c sugar, cream, then add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating after ea. addition. Sift 2 c flour with 1 t baking powder, mace cinnamon, 1/2 t each grnd. cloves & allspice. Combine 2 c raisins, 3/4 c citron, 1/2 c drd. apricots, 1/4 ea. candied orange & lemon peel, finely chopped. Stir the flour mixture & blend fruits and flour with creamed mixture. Fill a well-buttered mold 3/4 full with batter, adjust lid tightly. Wrap mold in a cloth, tie it securely and in deep kettle filled with boiling water, steam for at least 4 hrs. Replenish the water from time to time to keepthe mold well covered. Let cake cool in mold. Remove cake from mold, wrap in cheesecloth soaked in rum, sherry or brandy and store in tightly covered container. Moisten the cloth occasionally with the spirit and let the cake age for at least 3 weeks.

                    When I make it, I just place it in a glass mixing bowl to steam-I like the dome look.

        2. I know people here in the UK who actually make the cake in January and age it till Christmas. It's not my favorite, so I don't have a recipe, but I think you'll have good luck if you check Delia: and the BBC website: Those would be my first sources.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Kagey

            I make Jane Grigson's Country Christmas Cake from her book English food, but I soak the fruit in black rum for a week or two before making the cake (my mother used to start soaking it in July!), After baking, I poke holes in the top and drizzle some more rum on it before wrapping it in rum soaked cheesecloth and tinfoil. There are fruitcakes than can be made closer to Christmas (see Nigella Lawson's Feast for example) but for the flavours to mature for the JG recipe you need to make it at least a month beforehand.

            I have never heard of fruitcake being set alight, Christmas pudding is though.

            1. re: Athena

              Jane Grigson and Nigella Lawson are other good recommendations. My unsophisticated palate doesn't really know the difference between Christmas pudding and fruitcake! I never really investigated it, but they always seemed to taste the same to me. The pudding may be a bit more damp.

          2. My husband is British so I try to make one of these every year as well. The most successful one so far has been Delia Smith's Creole Christmas Cake. Its a cake that starts with 10 days of macerating all the dried fruits and nuts in more alcohol than imagineable. You then bake the cake, wrap, and store in the fridge for a month or two before Christmas. This one has so much booze in the beginning I'm not sure 'feeding' it is really required, but what the heck! Its a festive day, isn't it?!?

            If you're interested I'll post the recipe.

            1 Reply
            1. Similar to a fellow post, my mum makes her cakes months in advance and stores them until needed. Some times this means we're eating fruit cake made 2years prior. Doesn't seem to negative effect the taste, just more boozey.

              1. Our family preference was for a light batter rather than a dark batter fruit cake, cooked in early October, then stored in an enamel baker in a linen tea towel and treated with whiskey once a week, until Christmas.
                I found that this did not work in the deep south where the ambient room temperature was too high. But a refrigerator would do well.
                Sousing the fruit before hand...never heard of it, but it sounds like a good idea. I wouldn't add booze to the batter, it will just cook off.
                It is getting harder each year to find a good selection of candied fruit.